The Link Between Smoking and Glaucoma
Even though it’s well known that smoking cigarettes has serious consequences for our general health, it hasn’t stopped more than 1 billion people worldwide from adopting this addictive habit.
While most people are aware that smoking can cause cancer and pulmonary disease, far fewer realize that smoking can harm our eyes as well, as smoking regularly can increase the risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases, such as glaucoma.
But first, what is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases caused by a buildup of pressure within the eye. The longer the pressure builds, the more damage it causes, especially to the optic nerve. Since images are relayed from the eye to the brain along optic nerve impulses, glaucoma often results in permanent vision loss and even blindness.
Smoking-Related Glaucoma Symptoms
A 2018 retrospective study found that the more cigarette packs a person smoked per day, the greater their odds of developing glaucoma.
The study found that the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) is significantly affected by smoking. The RNFL collects visual data from the eye’s retinal nerves, which direct it to the optic nerve, taking the visual signals to the brain. Smokers in the study had a significantly thinner RNFL than non-smokers. A thinning RNFL is a symptom associated with glaucoma as well as some other eye conditions.
Other Eye Conditions Linked To Smoking
Besides glaucoma, smoking can put a person at risk for other serious eye conditions.
Smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts, compared to non-smokers, a condition characterized by the clouding of the eye lens that causes blurred vision. Once cataracts develop, they get progressively worse and must be surgically removed to eliminate the cloudiness and restore clear vision.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another eye condition that smokers are at a high risk of developing. Smokers are 3 times more likely to develop AMD, a condition that causes blind spots in the central vision. This means that no matter what you’re looking at, be it the TV or a grandchild’s face, you can’t see it clearly. AMD can at times lead to total blindness.
Other eye conditions that smokers are at a higher risk of developing include diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome.
Check Your Eye Health
One of the best actions you can take to improve your general health and your eye health is to quit smoking.
Schedule an eye exam with Eye & Ear of the Palm Beaches to make sure your eyes are healthy. If any eye problems are detected, we’ll recommend the best treatment options.